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County Hall Corner: The New District Attorney, Ryan Gardner

Ryan Gardner has the physique that would make it easier to believe that he was a fitness trainer rather than a district attorney, but in some ways, he is trying to get someone into shape. Actually, not a ‘someone’ but a ‘something,’ and that something is the Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office. His strong stature

Ryan Gardner has the physique that would make it easier to believe that he was a fitness trainer rather than a district attorney, but in some ways, he is trying to get someone into shape. Actually, not a ‘someone’ but a ‘something,’ and that something is the Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office.

His strong stature came from growing up on the family farm in Upper Fairfield Township. But despite the fact that the farm had been in his family since the 1700s, he did not have farming in his blood. He was drawn to law and served for a time as an Assistant District Attorney for Lycoming County.

Though he enjoyed the work, the salaries for ADAs at that time were very low, so Gardner decided to go into private practice. But as the years passed, he became more and more concerned about crime in the county and felt that he could do something about it. Slowly but surely, it became apparent that he did not just believe that he could be the Lycoming County District Attorney, but that he should be.

Gardner’s campaign through 2019 for the office was highly focused. He promised to be tough on crime and to cut through the office’s massive backlog of cases. Winning the primaries of both parties in May, he prepared for November, knowing that he was assured of winning the office. Somewhat freed up because of this, he intended to hit the ground running in January.

And hit it he did. Gardner interviewed everyone in the DA’s office to know what they did and then compared it to the job description for that position. His farm background taught him the value of a strong work ethic, and he wanted those who worked with him to share those values. He did not just want to know what the historical expectations of each of these positions were as much as what they were capable of doing.

The case backlog was the driving force in the office. When Gardner had been an ADA, there was a revolving trial list of around 250, which he deemed manageable. However, in recent years the case log was stuck in excess of 400, and he felt that it was not as much a rise in crime as much as disorganization and inefficiency. Gardner devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours in studying these problems before he formally took office in January. At the first County Commissioner’s Meeting of the new year, Gardner presented his massive reorganization plan, which involved eliminating clerical positions, shuffling workloads, and hiring two new detectives. The new Commissioner board had been thoroughly briefed on the plan and wholeheartedly approved it.

Now, five weeks in, the District Attorney’s Office has already been able to dispose of 70 cases, plus expecting a number of others to plead out in the next week or two. But what is also evident is a whole new attitude in the office. It is evident that the atmosphere has changed. People enjoy coming to work because they see fruit coming from their efforts.

But Ryan Gardner intends to keep his pedal to the metal. He knows that pursuing justice is fluid, and it takes patient diligence to achieve the goals of protecting the community, reducing recidivism, and all the while being cost-conscious.

Lycoming County has a District Attorney who is giving 110 percent and an office that appears to be totally committed to his leadership. The commissioners and the judges appear quite supportive as well. But the public can help as well. If a crime occurs, report everything that is seen to the police. It will help law enforcement and prosecutors who work to find the truth and seek justice. There is a lot of pessimism in the community concerning crime, but perhaps we can take hope that a change has come.

Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: lionwebbweekly@gmail.com.

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